The Peranakan community in Singapore were descended from the intermarriage of early Chinese migrants and local Malays back in the early days of Singapore. This marriage of Chinese & Malay cuisine lead to the creation of Peranakan cuisine.
You can taste the sincerity in each dish as Peranakan dishes are need a longer time to prepare as compared to other cuisines. The true test of a solid Peranakan cook lies in the making of the 'rempah', a seasoning paste which has to be made into a paste by pestle and mortar. It usually contains a variety of spices including blue ginger, yellow ginger, ginger, black nut, candlenut, lemongrass, chillies, tamarind and belachan (shrimp paste). The unique quality of the dishes is the use of spices and coconut milk, blending the ingredients carefully and cooking with Chinese wok-cooking techniques.
Some examples of Peranakan dishes include chicken kapitan (chicken curry with tamarind juice and belachan), kangkung belachan (stri fried water spinach in shrimp and belachan), otak otak (meat made out of minced fish ground with chilli paste and herbs) and ngoh hiang (fried beancurd skin rolls stuffed with minced pork).Most dishes are commonly served with sambal belachan which is a paste made out of lime juice, ground chillies and shrimps.
Despite its unique blend of cuisine, there are also small variants in some dishes which differ from one person to the next. Dishes originating from Penang use tamarinds and various sour ingredients, giving off a tinge of Thai cuisine in its taste, while dishes originating from Singapore and Malacca use coconut milk and have a richer taste as it is influenced by Indonesian cuisine. An example is seen in the local laksa dish. Penang assam laksa is made with mackerel soup and spiced with tamarinds, lemongrass and chilli, giving off a sour taste and garnished with pineapples and onions. Nyonya laksa contains gravy made with coconut milk and is aromatic in flavour, garnished with prawns, fried beancurd and cockles.
Dessert-wise, the Malay influence holds strong in Peranakan cuisine as many kuehs (cakes) are steamed and contain coconut milk as a main ingredients. Some examples of the desserts include kueh lapis (layered cake), ondeh ondeh (glutinous rice balls filled with gula melaka and coated in shredded coconut), ang ku kueh (tortoise-shaped red glutinous rice stuffed with peanut filling) and the Peranakan version of chendol (a glass of gula melaka at the base, green jelly noodles layered over it, topped with coconut milk). These kuehs can be found at SG Kueh at Amoy Street Food Centre just off Maxwell Road, a short walk from Chinatown train station, as well as Bengawan Solo outlets island-wide.
For a taste of Peranakan cuisine, head over to Charlie's Peranakan Food in East Coast, True Blue Restaurant at Armenian Street and Simply Peranakan Cuisine at Esplanade Mall. For authentic street variety, the best of the cuisine can be found along Katong and Joo Chiat.